PRODUCTION BEGINS ON THE ZOOKEEPER’S WIFE; NIKI CARO DIRECTS JESSICA CHASTAIN IN REAL-LIFE STORY OF HEROISM

focus_thumb1

Production has begun in the Czech Republic on The Zookeeper’s Wife, adapted from Diane Ackerman’s nonfiction book of the same name which was based on the diaries of Antonina Żabiński. Focus Features will release the film domestically; Universal Pictures International has distribution rights to the film in the U.K., France, Germany, Scandinavia, Latin America, and Eastern Europe.

Two-time Academy Award nominee Jessica Chastain stars in the title role, as Antonina Żabiński. The Zookeeper’s Wife director Niki Caro’s previous films include Whale Rider and North Country.

The Zookeeper’s Wife dramatizes a real-life story of heroism. The time is 1939. The place is Poland, homeland of Antonina Żabiński (portrayed by Ms. Chastain) and her husband, Dr. Jan Żabiński (Johan Heldenbergh, a European Film Award nominee for the Academy Award-nominated The Broken Circle Breakdown). The Warsaw Zoo flourishes under Jan’s stewardship and Antonina’s care. When their country is invaded by the Nazis, Jan and Antonina are forced to report to the Reich’s newly appointed chief zoologist, Lutz Heck (Golden Globe Award nominee Daniel Brühl of the upcoming Captain America: Civil War). The Żabińskis covertly begin working with the Resistance – and put into action plans to save the lives of hundreds from what has become the Warsaw Ghetto, with Antonina putting herself and her children at great risk.

The cast of The Zookeeper’s Wife also includes Michael McElhatton (Game of Thrones); Iddo Goldberg (Defiance, The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler); Goran Kostic (In the Land of Blood and Honey); and Israeli actresses Shira Haas, who stars in Natalie Portman’s feature directorial debut A Tale of Love and Darkness, and Efrat Dor, acclaimed for her work in the television series Achat Efes Efes, Asfur, andMermaids.

The screenplay adaptation is by Angela Workman (War Bride). The movie is being produced by Jeff Abberley, through his Scion Films; Kim Zubick and Diane Levin, who initiated the project; and Electric City Entertainment’s Jamie Patricof.

Academy Award nominee Suzie Davies (Mr. Turner) is the production designer on The Zookeeper’s Wife; Andrij Parekh (Show Me a Hero) is the director of photography; and Bina Daigeler (Only Lovers Left Alive) is the film’s costume designer.

Focus Features (www.focusfeatures.com) makes, acquires, and releases movies from rising and established talent and filmmakers. The diverse slate of movies includes several specialty films each year.

In addition to The Zookeeper’s Wife, upcoming releases from Focus include the stirring drama Suffragette, directed by Sarah Gavron and starring Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter, and Meryl Streep; Academy Award-winning director Tom Hooper’s The Danish Girl, the remarkable love story inspired by the lives of Lili Elbe and Gerda Wegener (Academy Award winner Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander); Kubo and the Two Strings, the new family event movie from animation studio LAIKA, directed by Travis Knight with a voice cast that includes Matthew McConaughey, Charlize Theron, Rooney Mara, Ralph Fiennes, Brenda Vaccaro, and Art Parkinson; Stephen Hopkins’ Race, starring Jeremy Irons, Jason Sudeikis, and Stephan James as the legendary athletic superstar Jesse Owens; Cyrus Nowrasteh’sThe Young Messiah, the inspiring and unique story of seven-year-old Jesus Christ; Colin Trevorrow’s The Book of Henry, starring Naomi Watts, Jacob Tremblay, and Jaeden Lieberher; and Juan Antonio Bayona’s visually spectacular drama A Monster Calls, starring Lewis MacDougall, Felicity Jones, and Liam Neeson.

Focus Features and Universal Pictures International are part of NBCUniversal, one of the world’s leading media and entertainment companies in the development, production, and marketing of entertainment, news, and information to a global audience. NBCUniversal owns and operates a valuable portfolio of news and entertainment television networks, a premier motion picture company, significant television production operations, a leading television stations group, and world-renowned theme parks. NBCUniversal is a subsidiary of Comcast Corporation.